Progressing digital equity within the community
Ciara Arnot Community Advisor •
Each year InternetNZ uses profits from the sale of .nz domain names to give out community funding. We provide funding for community-led initiatives that help to create an Internet that benefits all of Aotearoa. Distributing funds to the community is part of our core mahi as a charitable organisation.
Some of you may have noticed some names pop up again and again - as we sometimes end up funding the same people or organisations. This tends to be because they are doing great work, and as we have shifted our approach to be more relational, we have been able to develop a stronger understanding of their work and find ways to link in and support, beyond funding. This also reflects wider changes, as our organisation works to become a Te Tiriti centric organisation, and principles such as manaakitanga and whanaungatanga find their way into our approach.
To balance this, we must continue to check ourselves - the question of who has a seat at the table and who might be left out - and reach out to connect with new groups of people.
Today, we recognise and celebrate a couple of groups who have been working hard and progressing digital equity within the community in quite different ways.
Digital Natives Academy (DNA)
Established in 2014, Digital Natives Academy (DNA) is a non-profit that encourages whānau Māori who want to enter the digital tech industry. Their vision is to inspire the next generation of digital leaders. They link people with the power to create, transform, shape and develop their own digital tools.
While DNA programmes are open to all New Zealanders, the organisation has a foundation based on a Te Ao Māori worldview. It provides Kaupapa Māori and Matauranga Māori programme delivery. Using a strength-based approach, they aim to help Māori unlock their potential to explore their future in tech, through education pathways and meaningful employment.
Over the years, they have worked with thousands of at-risk Māori, providing free access and training in animation, coding, game design, esports, content creation, and wellbeing. InternetNZ funding has supported programme delivery through a number of grants, and in 2021 10,500 students participated in DNA's programmes, events, workshops and livestreams. As they connect with more people, more people want access to their programmes. The most recent grant will see 720 students take part in classes over 4 terms.
DNA was also among those grantees who helped us to test and refine our evaluation toolkit. With guidance from Standard of Proof, members of the DNA whānau learned about building evaluation planning into their programme delivery.
Founding Director Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule, "We learned that having an evaluation framework helped us understand the key elements we wanted to measure and helped us detail the change we wanted to see happen as a result of our initiative."
"We changed our approach to evaluation by exploring Standard of Proof. This helped us better understand how our initiative was going to bring about the change we desired. It helped us understand what our key goals were, what changes we expected to emerge as a result of our programme, both immediately and down the road. It helped us pinpoint how we wanted to achieve change and explore the resources we need to implement and deliver our programme. It also helped us to increase the evidence base on digital inclusion initiatives."
Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA)
Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) is another organisation that we have seen contribute significantly to digital equity over the last few years. They have received several grants for projects, including digital inclusion work focusing on seniors, tamariki, and most recently, people preparing for employment.
DIAA was established in 2018 to expand the reach of digital inclusion initiatives so that everyone in New Zealand has equitable opportunities to participate in the digital world. DIAA develops digital inclusion programmes and works closely with local delivery partners across the motu. That means they have a wealth of knowledge and experience and are well connected, working with public libraries, community organisations and social service providers. They currently have over 350 active delivery partners stretching from Kaitaia to Invercargill and a further 50 collaborative partners.
DIAA is well known throughout the regions for DORA (Digital On-Road Access), a bus designed to be a mobile learning centre. They have also assisted over 30,000 households to connect to the Internet through the Stepping UP programme in partnership with the Spark Foundation and the Skinny Jump. Programmes like Appy Seniors, and Digital Wellbeing for All (Keeping our Kids Safe Online), are each examples of how they have furthered the reach of existing programmes, tailoring engagement to meet the needs of different people who encounter the digital divide. Their latest project aims to develop and pilot a new digital inclusion initiative for increasing the digital skills of unemployed people who are seeking to develop their 'work-ready' competencies.
As with DNA, DIAA received support to build their evaluation capabilities alongside InternetNZ grant funding. By learning how to evaluate two of their projects (Appy Seniors and Digital Wellbeing for All) they were able to use their own evaluation framework across their other digital inclusion programmes. In their latest programme, Getting Ready for Work, this has allowed them to persuade organisations preparing people for work to include digital skills into their programmes.
Laurence Zwimpfer, Operations Director, "While it is easy to use questionnaires to capture a profile of learners at programme start and a self-assessment of learnings at the conclusion, it is much harder to monitor longer term impacts.
Our approach with other programmes is to seek permission from learners in the survey questionnaires to contact them after 6 months or 12 months to get feedback on how the programme has impacted their lives. We are using both telephone interviews and narrative inquiry approaches. The challenge we face is actually making contact with people after they complete a training programme; they often change their address and phone numbers and rarely respond to emails.
Our approach with this initiative is to develop new ways to stay connected with learners by working with local delivery partners so that we can evaluate the success of the intervention."
Working with organisations over time, and supporting evaluation capability building, has been a key factor in our progress to help shift the needle towards digital equity.
Each year InternetNZ uses profits from the sale of .nz domain names to give out community funding. We provide funding for community-led initiatives that help to create an Internet that benefits all of Aotearoa.
These organisations have received funding in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.